In the first post of this series, we took up the task of Defining The Law Of The Land. After that, we considered The Purpose Of The Law Of The Land. The last post focused upon the effect of what we believe. How do we achieve a consensus? What should be The Law Of The Land? That post considered The Means of Persuasion — Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.
Here we will look at our leadership, but first a diversion.
Fun On A Saturday Afternoon
On Saturday afternoon, I attended Delegate Bob Marshall‘s Campaign Kick-Up” Event (Virginians will vote on November 3, 2015.). It was fun, good food, dancing, and politics. Got to watch Delegate Marshall dance with his lady, Cathy, and Senator Dick Black dance with his lady, Barbara. That obviously made the ladys happy. Now my wife is after me to dance. Oh well….
I was there for the food and the politics. In addition to Delegate Marshall, Congressman Rob Wittman, Senator Black, Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, and Willie Deutsch (candidate for Member School Board – COLES DISTRICT) spoke. Clerk of the Court Michele B. McQuigg also attended. McQuigg surprised Marshall a bit when she declined to speak, but she did had little reason to do so. Wittman and Marshall both spoke glowingly of her, and she obviously supports Marshall. And there were plenty of good speeches.
Strangely, however, what I found most memorable was a speech not given by a politician. Instead, the fellow giving the invocation made the most powerful statement, and his quotes of Charles Finney and Noah Webster formed the core of his speech. I then decided quotations from those two gentleman would form the core of this post.
Why Must We Choose A New Leadership?
Many wise and learned men have written about the problem of finding good leadership for a republic. That includes why we must be careful.
In 1838, Abraham Lincoln gave this address, The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois (January 27, 1838). Here is an excerpt.
It is to deny, what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And, when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion, as others have so done before them. The question then, is, can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would inspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon?–Never! Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.–It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves, or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs. (from here)
Note that Lincoln speaks of only the chief leader. He predicted that some leaders would be controlled with only the greatest difficulty, and we now have a leader who speaks brazenly of the power of his phone and his pen. Yet what is our real problem? Is President Barack Obama a man possessed of the loftiest genius, or is it that at every level of public office we have elected unscrupulous men and women? Thus, when our president does not fulfill the obligations of his office — when he violates his oath and breaks The Law Of The Land — he finds support. Therefore, we cannot stop him. We cannot even slow him down. And so our leader, the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, has set the whole world in turmoil, and we can only watch the unraveling.
What have we failed to do?
Some call Charles Finney the Father of American revivalism. Whether he was such or not, Finney spoke at a time preachers were willing to speak of politics.
The church must take right ground in regard to politics. Do not suppose, now, that I am going to preach a political sermon, or that I wish to have you join and get up a Christian party in politics. No, I do not believe in that. But the time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics, or the Lord will curse them. They must be honest men themselves, and instead of voting for a man because he belongs to their party, Bank or Anti-Bank, Jackson, or Anti-Jackson, they must find out whether he is honest and upright, and fit to be trusted. They must let the world see that the church will uphold no man in office, who is known to be a knave, or an adulterer, or a Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler. Such is the spread of intelligence and the facility of communication in our country, that every man can know for whom he gives his vote. And if he will give his vote only for honest men, the country will be obliged to have upright rulers. . . . As on the subject of slavery and temperance, so on this subject, the church must act right or the country will be ruined. God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the church will take right ground. Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God. It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation were becoming rotten, and Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics. But I tell you, he does see it, and he will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they take. (from here)
Was Finney right? Is politics part of the religion in a country such as this? All I know is that who we vote for reflects a moral choice. When fail to vote for the welfare of our family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen — when we vote selfishly — God cannot sustain us as a free and blessed country.
Noah Webster is famous as a lexicographer for his commitment to education. He stated our obligation as voters this way.
When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, “just men who will rule in the fear of God.” The preservation of government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty; if the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded. If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws. (from here)
So what should we do? How should we select good leaders? Fortunately for us, the Bible offers us some good advice. A couple of thousand years ago, here is what the Apostle Paul told a young protegé about selecting leaders for the church in Ephesus, which was then a corrupt city.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 Good News Translation (GNT)
Leaders in the Church
3 This is a true saying: If a man is eager to be a church leader, he desires an excellent work. 2 A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife, be sober, self-controlled, and orderly; he must welcome strangers in his home; he must be able to teach; 3 he must not be a drunkard or a violent man, but gentle and peaceful; he must not love money; 4 he must be able to manage his own family well and make his children obey him with all respect. 5 For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the church of God? 6 He must be mature in the faith, so that he will not swell up with pride and be condemned, as the Devil was. 7 He should be a man who is respected by the people outside the church, so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the Devil’s trap.
We tend to overlook Paul’s advice and think only of church leaders. Yet our nation’s borders envelope thousands of churches. Our political leaders ensure the morality of our laws. Like it or not, our leaders impose their values upon society. When our leaders are immoral, they endanger our own values and the values of our family, friends and country.
We also may think of Paul’s advice as quaint, not appropriate for today. For example, when Paul wrote this passage, he wrote to people who would not have seriously considered women as leaders. Paul, however, appointed women to positions of trust, and he readily accepted their help. As 1 Corinthians 9 explains, Paul adapted to the culture of each people he visited. He wanted people to listen to when he preach the Gospel, not argue over side issues.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23 Good News Translation (GNT)
22 Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible.
23 All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings.
Thanks to a couple of thousand years of such patient Christian teaching, in this country we no longer allow men to select themselves to lead by using the point of their swords. Instead, we vote. Hence, each Christian now has an obligation to demonstrate how a Christian should participate in politics. When we support our candidates, and when we vote, we can put Paul’s words to action. We can back the candidate we would most like to have in charge of our church. If he (or she) is not fit for that job, he probably won’t do a good job as a leader of our county, our city, our state or our country.
Character does matter.